In almost any type of personal injury lawsuit, a major part of winning your case is proving the defendant acted negligently, thereby causing you harm. Showing negligence can involve complex legal arguments as well as close analysis of the specific facts of your case.
A brief overview of the concept of negligence in personal injury cases can help you get a better general understanding. As always, consulting a qualified attorney is the best way to understand your own situation.
Negligence is failed duty of care
Broadly speaking, the law defines negligence as failing to perform one’s duty of care under the circumstances. This leads to the question of identifying the duty the defendant owed to the plaintiff.
For example, a motorist owes a duty to other drivers and pedestrians of driving with reasonable safety. Generally, this means observing traffic regulations, maintaining alertness and acting reasonably to prevent accidents.
A doctor owes patients the duty to diagnose and treat them in accordance with accepted standards. In many malpractice cases, an expert for the plaintiff may testify about the standard of care in the applicable medical area. Owners or operators of public premises may be on the hook if they fail to repair dangerous conditions.
Reasonable conduct depends on circumstances
From the above examples, you can see that alleging a defendant acted negligently does not mean proving the action was intentional. Conduct does not have to be reckless or malicious to fall short of the duty of care standard. On the other hand, the law also does not require defendants to take extraordinary precautions to prevent harm. However, the line between reasonable precautions and extraordinary precautions depends a lot on the relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff.
Strict liability cases form an exception
In strict liability cases, negligence does not enter the equation. In these cases, the law can hold defendants responsible for harm they caused even if they were not negligent. One common example is the area of product liability, where a manufacturer or seller of a defective product can be liable for the damage it causes.